This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an
exclusive interview with Tanuj Raja.
Mr. Tanuj Raja is Vice President of
Business Development at Sandbridge Technologies, Inc. With more than
twelve years of industry experience, Tanuj joined Sandbridge Technologies in
February, 2002. As a member of Sandbridge’s senior management team, Tanuj is
responsible for developing and defining the company’s global business strategy. Sandbridge Technologies Inc. is pioneering SDR (Software Defined Radio) based reprogrammable
baseband processors for wireless handsets and has been recognized for its
revolutionary technology by Forbes Magazine, winning the “Innovator of the Year
Award” in 2003. In addition, the World Economic Forum selected Sandbridge as
one of its Technology Pioneers in 2004.
Prior to Sandbridge, Tanuj spent four years
in the Wireless Design group at Cadence Design Systems, Inc. where he held
various positions such as Director of Business Development, Worldwide Business
Manager for 3G Technologies, and 3G Program Manager. He also has five years of
software development experience at Cadence. He has authored and co-authored
numerous journal and conference papers. His many speaking engagements include
the PDA & Smartphone Track at the 2005 Wireless & Mobile WorldExpo held
in Toronto on May
18th and 19th.
Tanuj has extensive business development
experience in Asia Pacific and Europe; he has successfully developed wireless
business opportunities with many Asian, European and US
companies. In 2003, he was invited to join HY-SDR’s (SDR Research Center, Hanyang University, Seoul, Korea) as
an executive committee member.
Q: Tanuj, as a top-ranking wireless expert,
we are indeed fortunate that you took time out of your busy schedule to do this
interview. Thank you.
A: The pleasure is mine, thank you for inviting
Q: Tanuj, due to your widely recognized
expertise and deep insights into the wireless technology markets, you were
appointed as Committee Member to the HY-SDR Research Center. It is
quite an honour to be the only non-Korean company represented on the prestigious
and influential HY-SDR Committee (Hanyang University-software defined radio);
demonstrating worldwide recognition of your expertise, innovative technologies,
and commitment to SDR research. How did this come about, how will you
contribute, and what will be the outcome from the group? Describe the major
Well, I have been working on wireless
projects in Korea for many years and the Korean technical community is rather well
integrated. I was fortunate to establish a relationship with Dr. Seungwon Choi,
(professor at Hanyang University and Director of the HY-SDR). As we discussed the challenges of
realizing a SDR based solution, it was apparent that we shared a common vision
– to bring SDR based systems to the commercial market. Dr. Choi was kind enough
to invite me to the join the executive committee.
Partially funded by the Korean government,
HY-SDR is at the forefront of SDR based research. Their research initiatives include R&D of
core and application technologies of SDR-based multimode and multiband
solutions. In addition, the goal is also to provide education and provision of
trained engineers in the SDR field. HY-SDR is planning to develop a complete
system prototype for network and handset based on reconfigurable technologies. My contribution to HY-SDR is to bring
commercial requirements of SDR for development of viable solutions appropriate
for mid to long term commercial deployment.
Q: What are your current and future goals
as VP with Sandbridge and how will you accomplish them?
A: My role at Sandbridge is to oversee all
aspects of business development for Sandbridge’s revolutionary reprogramable
processors in the commercial mobile market. I believe this technology has the
potential to change the way mobile phones are developed, deployed and used
around the globe. In the short term, I am pursuing educating our current and
potential clients on the benefits of SDR. In the near future, I am sure to see
the launch of the world’s first SDR based handset.
Personally, I am glad to be an integral
part of a company that is bringing a new, disruptive technology to
commercialization. My goal is to make Sandbridge’s technology widely accepted
by the wireless community because I believe this will truly usher in a new era
for mobile handsets.
Q: Your work encompasses using a single
reprogrammable ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) DSP (digital
signal processing) solution, combining advanced baseband and multimedia
processing for wireless handsets. Discuss the initiatives and outcomes from the
convergence of Smartphones and PDAs. What are the key issues/challenges with
A: Prior to looking at the implementation
of a convergence device, one has to understand “what is a convergence device”.
A wireless convergent device faithfully exhibits/performs all the functions of
the original but separate form factors. In the case of smart phones and PDAs, I
believe that combining a calendar, email, camera and voice functions are not
enough. True convergence comes from the ability for users to be able to listen
to music (MP3), download movies (MPEG 4, H264), listen to broadcast TV (dvb.h) and/or
perform video conferencing, etc. Herein lie the key issues and challenges with
device convergence. The ability to perform all these tasks requires a flexible
computing platform and don’t forget that we still need to process all the
The problem is that there are too many
different standards for performing these tasks and combined with all the
different communication standards, achieving a true convergence device becomes
difficult. So, I think the best methodology is to have a reprogrammable
platform for wireless devices (similar to PC’s, where we constantly add/change
programs depending on our needs). This reprogramable platform will give the end
users the ability to add new programs in SW - based on necessity and desire.
One thing I can guarantee is that there
will never be a device which will perform all possible functions, but with a
completely reprogramable solution, it will be possible to have a customized
solution for a particular audience and for a specific geography.
Q: Can you share with us three case studies
involving your solutions?
A: We are currently under development with
most of our customers, so giving out specific projects is not possible. However,
here are a few examples of type of solutions our processor can offer:
1. Multimode WCDMA, GSM/GPRS, EDGE
smartphone with GPS, MPEG4, MP3
2. GSM/GPRS with h.264, dvb.h
3. Multimode TD-SCDMA, CDMA2K with HSDPA
with combination of multimedia functions
Essentially with the same processor,
multiple combinations of standards are possible for customers to pick and
choose desired combinations.
Q: What are the major challenges in this
A: As with any reprogramable technology for
the mobile market, the two major challenges are:
1) Can the processor perform the necessary
baseband processing in accordance to the standards requirements?
2) Is the power consumption of this processor
suitable for handset deployment?
We believe that we have successfully
overcome these challenges and are looking forward to demonstrating our
processor over the next few months.
Q: Provide forecasts in the short, medium,
and long term. Where is this heading?
A: In the short term, I believe we will see
adoption of SDR-based solutions by the handset OEM’s to increase the number of
models they develop. They may not offer reprogramablity to the consumers
directly. In the medium term, as SDR-based
solutions become more pervasive, tunable RF will be added to make the handsets
truly worldwide roaming with ability to make changes “over the air”. And finally I expect that consumers will be
offered a complete reprogramable solution – to modify and change, as necessary.
Q: Share your views on the Asian
marketplace and specific areas we should be watching. Why?
A: Wow, overall market conditions in Asia are very exciting. There
is so much going on in Asia that one could write a book! I’ll limit my answer primarily to China (this
is what everyone is talking about!) On my recent visit to China, I
was surprised to see the changes that have occurred in the last 10 years. The
infrastructure, the technological advances are phenomenal. Until recently, China has been known
to produce low cost consumer goods – look for China’s
technical community to start producing world standard electronic and leading
edge computers, mobile handsets in the near future. South Korea continues it’s domination on high-end consumer electronics
(primarily from Samsung and LG Electronics). Japan has
struggled in the past, but western style management at companies such as Sony
is shaking things up.
So, in my opinion, China
will continue to import technology based solutions and mass produce, in the
near future. The opportunities for
US/Canadian companies will come from bringing technical know-how to China and
then taking advantage of low cost production. On the non-technical side, one
needs to understand that the Asian consumers are extremely brand conscious, so
from a fashion perspective, one will see “asianization” of big fashion brand
names, as they rush to capture market share.
Specific areas to watch are electronics,
automotive and consumer goods. One big hurdle the Chinese have is patent
infringement problems. This is one issue which could derail the entire Asian
economy. The Chinese government is beginning to implement series of laws with
the aim of protecting patents, copyrights, etc. Overall, with a global economy,
I think ultimately consumers are the beneficiaries of lower cost, high quality
Q: Detail a major challenge you faced in
the past few years and how it was overcome?
A: When I joined Sandbridge about three
years ago, Sandbridge’s product (the reprogramable processor) was under
development. My thoughts were – the concept of reprogrammability is a
no-brainer. Why wouldn’t any handset company jump on the idea? When I started talking with various
companies, it dawned on me that change, and specifically a paradigm shift of
such proportions is difficult for engineering managers and senior executives to
embrace. A large part of my effort was focused on “educating the customers”.
With time I was able to turn our customers into believers. Now our customers
are our biggest champions.
In addition, in order for a solution to
work in the handset a complete ecosystem is required. The ecosystem here would
comprise of physical layer software, protocol stacks, multimedia codecs and RF
partners, etc. So, at Sandbridge we
turned our energies to define an ecosystem where an entire set of third party
companies have become part of the Sandblaster™ ecosystem. Now, instead of just
a single processor product, we offer a complete ecosystem to our customers to
choose the desired combinations or develop their own.
Q: Describe your work with Cadence Design
Systems and lessons you learned that still impact you today.
I spent many years at Cadence, matter of fact;
it was my first job after I graduated from College. I had various different
responsibilities from product validation to project management in the product
development group. Then I moved to Cadence’s design consulting group and began
managing large complex projects for Cadence’s customers. One of the biggest
lessons I learned was that client management is not just about making the
deliverables. Typically a Project Manager thinks that by completing milestones
as written in the project plan will satisfy the customer. A good Project
Manager has to understand that managing expectations is probably the biggest
challenge. A lot of promises are made to customers (which are never documented)
during the sales cycle. A successful project manager has to navigate through these
“soft” deliveries while making sure that the customer is satisfied and the
project is profitable for your company.
Q: Here’s an audience favorite. Imagine you
are doing the interview. What three questions would you ask and then what would
be your answers?
A: Q1) What is the future of Mobile handsets?
A1) I don’t think anybody knows, really!
They keep evolving - continuously. New and bizarre applications are dreamed up
Q2) Has technology innovation become a
thing of the past?
A2) No! We have only just begun; 25 years
ago we saw the first wireless flip-phone in Star Trek, and here we are - most
people carry a device similar today. So, it is in human nature to continue to
Q3) What is the impact of globalization on
A3) We live in a highly globalized economy. India and China are competing with the western countries for jobs, manufacturing
and even high-tech design and deployment. In order for the more mature
economies to succeed, globalization has to be accepted and embraced. We have to
continue to innovate and keep investing resources in leading edge technologies
– such as wireless, bio-tech, etc.
Specifically for our industry we are seeing
a phenomenal growth in the wireless handset business. As the standard of living
increases in the third world, consumers are demanding not just plain wireless
handsets – but with increased set of features. In India
alone the project growth rate for cell phone use is 20% per year. China is
experiencing around 10-15% growth per year. And if you combine the South
American and African markets, the wireless handset market appears that it is
headed towards a healthy robust growth period. The biggest impact in the near
term is that most handset manufacturers are outsourcing manufacturing to China;
the idea is to build where you sell (and enjoy lower costs), but designs are
still being done in various different parts of the globe.
Of course, we at Sandbridge expect to
capitalize on this by enabling handset manufacturers to develop multiple new
models with geographic context easily through our reprogrammable technology.
Q: Tanuj, thank you for taking the time to
do this interview and sharing your considerable experiences, and expertise with
A: My pleasure, thanks for the opportunity.